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Gamers vs. Gaming: The Real Console War

Written by MilkyMalky on Tuesday, 7 July 2009No Comment
I’ve read and wrote a lot since the inception of this current generation of consoles, and have heard many new terms enter the ‘gaming dictionary’ that were never needed before. Terms such as “demographic” and “target audience” are now much more prevalent, and lets of course not forget the labelling of “casual” and “hardcore” gamers and the stigma that goes with them. The thing is, you go back a generation, to the days of the GameCube, the PS2 and the original Xbox, and we rarely had to use these terms at all. When did everything get so complicated?

What I have deduced is that this time around the reason we need the descriptors mentioned above is because the goalposts have shifted, the consoles themselves are not directly competing with each other as much as they were (PS3 and 360 similarities aside), but more competing either for the individual gamer, or for the world of gaming itself.

This difference is on two separate levels. The first is the choice that is made to go either the route of the gamer or gaming when making an individual game. Take for example a FIFA game on say the 360. This game is a great example of pleasing a large fan-base, to appease the gamer. Giving the individual what they want. But, in reality does it really improve gaming? Does it really take great steps forward in the genre? Probably not. Compare and contrast to a game like The Conduit soon to be released here in the UK for Wii. Here the developers took the conscious decision to take time on the game and really get the most out of the machine. They have pushed what is possible for Wii gaming currently. However I will be surprised if this game becomes as popular as FIFA, so more focussed on improving gaming itself, than perhaps appeasing the masses then.

The Conduit - an example of more focus on gaming than gamers.

The Conduit - an example of more focus on gaming than gamers.

The second, broader perspective is more to do with ideology of the consoles makers themselves. On one side there is the individual gamer again being appeased in terms of the deliverance of what is desired and expected. And on the other there is the gaming industry being revolutionised and consistently moving forward and pushing boundaries. When you think of where to put each of the three console makers on one side – gamers or gaming – most would choose the obvious. The PS3 and 360 on the gamers’ side, and the Wii on the gaming side. But is it that clear cut?

Its clearly not a black and white concept, the two sides are not mutually exclusive. Even in the game examples above, neither one completely ignores one side – FIFA does introduce new ways to make the game of football come more alive (improve gaming), and The Conduit is trying to give the gamers what they want in a FPS as well (appease the gamer). Similarly its not like the PS3 and 360 are ignoring the innovation of the gaming industry nor is the Wii not providing for its individual gamers.

So what’s the solution? How do you solve this puzzle? Which side is the better side? Well neither really. In order to truly satisfy the consumer for any sustainable period you need to excel in both. Think of the truly great games you have played, think of your favourite console of all time. Chances are the reasons you have such favourites are because they tick both boxes of catering for you as an individual and also having delivered on a broader gaming perspective. From the current generation, games like Super Mario Galaxy and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare both do this, and it is why they are instant classics. They are not only great games that deliver on an individual basis, but are also great examples of their genre and provide benchmarks for future games to be measured against.

 

Super Mario Galaxy - a game that balances gamer desire and innovates gaming at the same time.

Super Mario Galaxy - a game that balances gamer desire and innovates gaming at the same time.

It is so easy sometimes to favour the side of the gamer. We are all gamers, and we want to be entertained. It’s easy for us to complain and cite that - say in the Wii’s case - we as an individual are not being catered for as much as those gamers on the 360 or PS3. Therefore Nintendo are clueless and not in touch with their “target audience”. But what we have to remember is that the only way we will be entertained in the long-run is to have developers pushing gaming boundaries and moving forward in their thinking of developing new titles as well, improving the gaming industry as a whole as they go. It’s why the Wii is good for the 360 and the PS3 and vice versa, because if gaming moves forward, so will our individual enjoyment as a gamer.

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